Thursday, May 28, 2015

Last thoughts on time

Here we are at the end of another month and I feel like we've barely scraped the surface of our rule, "Waste Your Time Wisely".

But it's okay. I've decided that we will introduce June's rule next week but also, we are going to keep making red X's (create not consume) and try not break the chain for another month.


Because, as to quote the great Walt Whitman (and the wonderful Professor Keating)... are here - that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be? 
Happy Friday!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Don't Break The Chain

I've found another tool to help us "waste time wisely" thanks to our favorite comedian, Jerry Seinfeld.
It's DON'T BREAK THE CHAIN. (Puffy shirt not required.)

The story goes that before the success of his tv show, Seinfeld was a touring comic. One night before he took to the stage, a young comic, Brad Isaac approached him backstage and asked him for some advice.

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. To help him do that, every January he would hang a big Year at a Glance calendar on his wall. For every day he wrote, he would then put a giant (gratifying) red X over that day. After a few days, he had a chain of red X's.

His focus then was to keep the chain going....don't break the chain. This little exercise kept him motivated to keep at it.

We think it's a great idea to keep our thoughts on time.

Daily action builds habits so this week we're getting our red markers out to see if this technique can help us "consume less, create more" in our quest to "waste time wisely".

Red X's never looked so good!

Have a great week:-)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

To have all the time in the world...

One of my favorite books is Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

Of all the books in my china cabinet, this one was read the SLOWEST. I remember being so struck by its poetic nature that I chose to read just a few pages at a time while Reese took her afternoon nap. I truly didn't want this book to end.

The story revolves around Albert Einstein in 1905 when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland while working on his theory of relativity. As he considers the existence of time, he imagines many possible worlds.

"In one, time is circular so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children, where time stands still. In yet another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar."

In another, he imagines time as infinite and posits an existence where people live forever. 

If you had all the time in the world,
how would you waste it?

(Excerpt from Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman)

9 June 1905

Suppose that people live forever.

Strangely, the population of each city splits into two: the Laters and the Nows.

The Laters reason that there is no hurry to begin their classes at the university, to learn a second language, to read Voltaire or Newton, to seek promotion in their jobs, to fall in love, to raise a family. For all these things, there is an infinite span of time. In endless time, all things can be accomplished. Thus all things can wait. Indeed, hasty actions breed mistakes. And who can argue with their logic? The Laters can be recognized in any shop or promenade. They walk an easy gait and wear loose-fitting clothes. They take pleasure in reading what ever magazines are open, or rearranging furniture in their homes, or slipping into conversation the way a leaf falls from a tree. The Laters sit in cafes sipping coffee and discussing the possibilities of life.

The Nows note that with infinite lives, they can do all they can imagine. They will have an infinite number of careers, they will marry an infinite number of times, they will change their politics infinitely. Each person will be a lawyer, a bricklayer, a writer, an accountant, a painter, a physician, a farmer. The Nows are constantly reading new books, studying new trades, new languages. In order to taste the infinities of life, they begin early and never go slowly. And who can question their logic? The Nows are easily spotted. They are the owners of the cafes, the college professors, the doctors and nurses, the politicians, the people who rock their legs constantly whenever they sit down. They move through a succession of lives, eager to miss nothing. When two Nows chance to meet at the hexagonal pilaster of the Zahringer Fountain, they compare the lives they have mastered, exchange information, and glance at their watches. When two Laters meet at the same location, they ponder the future and follow the parabola of the water with their eyes.

The Nows and Laters have one thing in common. With infinite life comes and infinite list of relatives. Grandparents never die, nor do great-grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles, great-great aunts and so on, back through the generations, all alive and offering advice. Sons never escape from the shadows of their fathers. Nor do daughters of their mothers. No one ever comes into his own.

When a man starts a business, he feels compelled to talk it over with his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, ad infinitum, to learn from their errors. For no new enterprise is new. All things have been attempted by some antecedent in the family tree. Indeed, all things have been accomplished. But at a price. For in such a world, the multiplication of achievements is partly divided by the diminishment of ambition.

And when a daughter wants guidance from her mother, she cannot get it undiluted. Her mother must ask her mother, who must ask her mother, and so on forever. Just as sons and daughters cannot make decisions themselves, they cannot turn to parents for confident advice. Parents are not the source of certainty. There are one million sources.

Where every action must be verified one million times, life is tentative. Bridges thrust halfway over rivers and then abruptly stop. Buildings rise nine stories high but have no roofs. The grocer's stocks of ginger, salt, cold and beef change with every change of mind, every consultation. Sentences go unfinished. Engagements end just days before weddings. And on the avenues and streets, people turn their heads and peer behind their backs, to see who might be watching.

Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free. Over time, some have determined that the only way to live is to die. In death, a man or a woman is free of the weight of the past. These few souls, with their dear relatives looking on, dive into Lake Constance or hurl themselves from Monte Lema, ending their infinite lives. In this way, the finite has conquered the infinite, millions of autumns have yielded to no autumns, millions of snowfalls have yielded to no snowfalls, millions of admonitions have yielded to none.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Consume or Create

Last week we asked the question, where does our time go?

We took on the mini homework assignment to pay attention to our day. There were no charts to fill out or numbers to calculate, just some effort to notice the overall patterns of how we spend our day.

Yesterday, we sat down together and Ethan and Reese took turns describing a typical weekday. We covered the basics of eating, school time, homework, chores, video games, and sleep.

All fine, typical responses.

I then asked them to think about their days, again, but in the context of one question.

Did you spend most of your time consuming or creating?

Consuming was the overwhelming answer but it wasn't surprising. To be fair, all of us were guilty of consuming more than we created in a typical day.

I then talked to them about what if felt like to consume vs. create.

Consuming was hard to explain. Whether they were consuming a meal or watching a favorite youtube video, there was no big defining emotion. They were doing something they enjoyed but it was also something they didn't think about like a routine or habit. 

Creating was a different story. Ethan talked about making some of his own meals recently after taking a cooking class last semester. Over the weekend he made pizza English muffins. He talked about how satisfying and good it felt to eat something that he knew he had made all by himself. Reese identified with that same satisfaction and good feeling when she described some original My Little Pony designs she had been making for her classmates. There was a pride and pleasure in the time spent with these creative moments.

The big reveal, Creativity energizes you. (It's one of the big reasons I choose to write.) Consumption that's mindless or excessive provides short term satisfaction but ultimately drains you in the long run.

So, let's see if we can we turn things around - CREATE MORE, CONSUME LESS - take a consume moment and make it into a create moment.

Instead of just watching videos on youtube - Ethan and Reese - make your own video to share.

Instead of making the same old thing for dinner or snack, let's look for some new recipes to try out.

Instead of everyone on their respective devices, let's do something as a family, together.

Create more, consume less, that will be our "wise" guide for the remainder of this month's rule -  Waste Your Time, Wisely.

What can you create today?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Beware The Trap

"What do I get?"

That's what my kids say these days when I ask them to do something. Forget the kindness of lending a hand or the good feeling that comes with a job well done. They want compensation, preferably money, proof that their time was well spent and worth it.

How did we get here?? Would you believe it started with some House Rules?

When Ethan was a toddler, I wrote our first list of rules along with a Thomas the Train chart for good behavior. Following rules, the train went up the track. Breaking rules the train slide back down. When Thomas got to the top, there was a reward of stickers or something small like bubbles or a match box race car. And so it began...

Through the early kid years, we've tried other charts/reward systems. My kids needed a lot of motivation. I remember one year we had a tree that we added leaves on for good choices.

Another year, they earned tickets that they later turned in for a prize.

It was all so innocent then.

Then the time came where we felt that our kids needed to know the value of a dollar so we started to give them an allowance. We felt it was important for them to learn responsibility for saving and spending their own money. Occasionally, they would earn an extra dollar or two when they helped wash the cars or took part in a big cleanup project. I was proud of the hard work but lately the lesson has become a slippery green slope when I see them repeatedly measure other moments in currency with that "what's in it for me?" mindset.

This isn't what I had in mind for "waste your time, wisely". 

Nor is the realization that this isn't just their problem. As an adult, I see myself fall into the same mental trap. The bigger challenge for me is that the thought is so subtle now, it's unconscious, I don't even stop to say the words, but the feeling is there and it plays into my day. It's hard to make choices that I sometimes need without the guilt that my time would be better spent (says my brain) in other more productive ways, especially when it comes to money.

In a world where we are taught that "time is money" and "money never sleeps" where can one go to truly waste time?

Lucky for you, I've got an article on the subject!


"Ever since a clock was first used to synchronise labour in the 18th century, time has been understood in relation to money. Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably. When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone’s time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems."

Give it a read and see if you see yourself, too, caught in a world of dollars and how to make sense of it all.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Technology and Time

As we ponder, "where does your time go" this week, I wanted to share an interesting TED Talk I found on TIME.


Check out what she has to say about technology as part of our identity today and how technology has altered our sense of time. It's definitely worth 10 minutes of "your" time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Where does your time go?

As we dive into our new rule, "waste your time, wisely" I chatted the kids up on what comes to mind for them when they think about the words, "waste" and "time".

For waste, it was garbage cans and things they dreaded. Homework was high on the list.

For time, they simply pointed to a clock. Tick, tick, tick, time can sometimes feel like it is slowly dragging (again the mention of homework) or quickly flying by (video games). Despite these feelings, they both agreed that time was a forward motion. Sorry Marty McFly, no time machine Deloreans here.

So, if time moves forever onward without our help or hindrance, where does it go? More importantly, what do YOU make time for?

That's what we're going to focus on this week. Did I just give out a homework assignment?

You may think you already know the answer - eat, play, work, sleep, game, etc., - but try holding off answering right away and just pay attention for a few days. You don't even have to write anything down.

Class dismissed - Happy Monday!

Friday, May 8, 2015

May Inspiration Art

Our inspiration art this month is a simple black and white piece featuring a quote in the background by British philosopher, Bertrand Russell.

                                               - Bertrand Russell

This artwork got a thumbs up from our household. We all LOVE the quote!

We'll be pondering the thought a bit this weekend. How about you? 
We'll be back to chat again next week. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May Rule


What? You might have read that and thought there was a typo in our May rule.
Or perhaps, that I meant to say something else?
Nope, again.
Ok, I guess I could have written our rule to read, "use your time wisely" but what fun would that be? I don't think the idea would have caught your attention. (It definitely would not have caught my kids' attention) They generally know that time is precious or at least, they have heard the platitude a few times by yours, truly.
But, when I say, "waste your time, wisely" they stop for a moment and think to themselves with a crooked smile. They start to formulate ideas, wild ones but before they dare speak them, they want to be sure they heard right.
What did I say?? And that's where our dialogue begins.